Thursday, June 13, 2024

Go ahead, call me a curmudgeon, hater or whatever, but I’m done with the whole consuming concept of the “multiverse.” Yeah, it rocked the Oscars with “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” but the Daniels are a cheeky, creative tandem whose projects are driven by wit and verve – and that had Michelle Yeoh. Otherwise (with a hall pass given for the animated “Spider-Verse”), it’s a lazy way to just keep the same-old-same-old going around, a toilet bowl eddy of narrative ineptitude that no studio exec will flush as long as it can rack up boffo box office mojo. With “The Flash,” I have reached the end of my tether. Is anyone out there holding onto super fond memories of this year’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” or “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021)?

That said,“The Flash” does pass the time. But then it begins to rewind it – too often – and in the end, feels pointless. In the rebooted DCU (Detective Comic Universe), many of the Justice League entries besides Batman and Superman have fallen flat – sorry “Aquaman” and “Wonder Woman 1984” – and “The Flash” shows even less flair. The plot has Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), aka the Flash, using his super speed to go back in time to save his mother (Maribel Verdú) from a deadly supermarket run-in that left his dad (Ron Livingston) on the hook for murder. Natch, there’s a fly in the time continuum ointment, and Barry drops out and in with his 18-year-old self and loses his superpowers. Also in the mix of this alter ’verse is old foe General Zod (Michael Shannon), trying to terraform the Earth to his desired specs (which would mean the annihilation of the human race), and now there is no Superman, but Supergirl (Boston-born Sasha Calle, in a generic part). And while we do get Ben Affleck’s Batman in a cool opening sequence, the one here giving Barry an assist is a gray-haired kook in a Wayne Manor that’s a weedy, seedy mess, (though the Batcave still rocks) played by none other than Michael Keaton, who pretty much steals the show and saves the film as well as the universe and Barry’s slow-moving ass.

Miller, so good as the troubled, titular Kevin in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (2011) and as Credence Barebone in the “Fantastic Beasts” flicks – and a controversial figure given some recent offscreen incidents – is adequate as Barry Allen. The problem is that the character just isn’t that deep. That mom is lost and there’s that pining to bring her back and the idea that a superhero without powers still has to be superhuman feel borrowed from another movie and sprinkled in. The time rewinds, so much fun in “Groundhog Day” (1993) and “Edge of Tomorrow” (2014), just don’t add anything, and at nearly two and a half hours, a film with a speedy protagonist should feel faster. Directed by Andy Muschietti (“It”) and penned by Christina Hodson (the dully flat “Birds of Prey”) the film does have some neat action sequences – the breakout of Supergirl from a Russian prison – and the Batcycle and Batplane are pretty dope. Besides that and Keaton’s screen time, this “Flash” is pretty much treadmill superhero 101. 

Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.